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Health care, taxes on minds of delegation

LAWRENCEVILLE - The top priorities of 2006 in Congress are different for Republicans and Democrats, at least in Gwinnett's delegation to Washington.

When Congress convenes today, U.S. Rep. John Linder, R-Duluth, said his top three priorities will be taxes, immigration and health care.

After a successful 2005 atop bestseller lists with his "The FairTax Book," Linder said he wants his alternative to income taxes to become a hot topic in Washington.

"I'm pursuing an opportunity to get a discussion on fundamental tax reform," he said.

One way into the conversation could be a bill that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson introduced this week.

The Marietta man is proposing the federal tax code be repealed on July 4, 2008. The Tax Code Termination Act, he said, would force officials to talk about alternative methods of revenue.

"History has taught us that if we don't impose a deadline and terminate the tax code by a date certain, overhauling our inefficient system is nearly impossible," Isakson said. "All options should be on the table, and the only way to fairly consider all of them is to start from scratch."

Linder said similar measures have passed the House.

"I welcome that because I'm prepared with a replacement," he said.

An official in Isakson's office said he would introduce a bill in the coming weeks dealing with illegal immigration. The law would deal with securing the borders, dealing with the Mexican government and creating a guest worker program.

Linder said he agreed the county should deal with the Mexican government and the border.

"We're going to do something on that because you can't go to a town hall meeting without people talking about it," he said.

U.S. Rep. David Scott, a Democrat who represents parts of the Interstate 85 corridor in Gwinnett, said the thing he hears the most about at his town hall meetings is the new Medicare program.

"I feel health care has to be at the top of a very crowded agenda," he said.

The program needs some changes, including extending the eligibility period and clearing up confusion, he said.

Scott said he also wants to concentrate on increasing support for the military and solving the nation's energy problems.

"I think a lot is going to happen in terms of talking," he said. "I'm hoping we can get substance here, too."